The Training Table: “The Power of Pictures and Pithy Paradigms”-3
“The Power of Pictures and Pithy Paradigms” is a series of timeless truims—each of which will serve to reinforce the Feast of the Heart Vision, Mission, and the main motivation for my own life in Christ and love for those He places in my life.
Everyone reformed, revived, a constructive revolutionary!
Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.
Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth of the Bible.
Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed.
Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment.
How Do You Formulate Your Perspective of What is True and What Is Not?
Or do you have all the wisdom you need in the fishbowl of your own mind?
Every human being, at any time, any where, when and how in the history humanity has suffered from being biased—sometimes intentionally, but mostly unintentionally due to values and emotions largely hidden from our own awareness. We can all admit that much, right? If we only knew all we knew and didn’t know… It’s like, from a faith perspective, all of our prayers would be apt and efficacious if we knew all God knew. But we don’t.
It’s plain to see that we all have a point of view, and tend to choose to place ourselves in the midst of other people who share our ideology and point of view about life, death and lots of things in between the two. This is simply an unarguable reality about the bent of being human… and fallen:
Self-centeredness—and the choice to be in the proximity others who mirror us by means of their similar ideology, point of view—is a plight that all humanity shares. Each of us lives in a fishbowl of our own paradigms—E.g., the way an individual perceives, and interprets his or her surrounding world; a paradigm is a spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and physical “map” that guides the journey of life for each one of us. The perspective embedded in each of our own paradigms is everything… if we allow it to be so.
Familiar words that describe this human tendency might be: “bigotry, bias, favoritism, leaning, prejudice, tendency, inclination, partiality” and the like. We all suffer from principles and practices such as these because we are predominantly self-interested beings; each one of us raised in the fishbowl of our own family, familiarity, and flailing to make a satisfying life.
In a foolish, irrational, and politically-correct world, characteristics such as these are seen as wholly negative—as if any human being ever born didn’t have certain partialities and leanings about pretty much everything in life! For one person to accuse another of being prejudice or bigoted is a supremely silly way to solve any problem: We’re all bias in some way and we desperately need to stop the face-to-face hypocrisy and stand shoulder-to-shoulder focused on an objective Truth and reality in order to resolve any issue.
Is it possible for ALL of our individual biases to be equally true and valid? Absolutley not. Not logically and not anecdotally either: We must stay in a conversation long enough to weigh our truths and falsehoods against each other to see which holds-up in reality, in everyday life, in our stories, and compared to God’s True Truth and Love in the Bible… But I’m getting ahead of myself. The problem is we rarely, if ever, have conversations of this kind anymore. The world, the flesh, and the devil has won the day by creating a fishbowl of shallowness in our culture whereby the longest conversation often amounts to, “How ya doing? Fine. Really busy. We should do lunch. See ya.”
Will the Truly Objective Person Please Stand Up!
Akin to all of the blather about certain people being “racist” and others not, it would be far better if the discussion began at the point of reality: All human beings favor our own self and kind; and we all have varying degrees of enmity, hostility, distrust, ill will, malice or—to give ourselves much more slack than we deserve—we’re simply suspicious and harbor a benign or healthy distrust about “the other”. Put another way, depending on how near and dear any given subject matter is to each one of us, it can be incredibly painful to be in the midst of an opposing point of view or counter-intuitive personalities… Or people, places, ideas that exist outside or counter to our own “fishbowl existence.”
But where can we go to get out of our own head… or out of our own way?
As Stephen Covey put it, “What each and every one of us sees isn’t a completely accurate reflection of reality, it is shaped by our attitudes and perceptions. Paradigms are natural and inevitable, and they are useful to us in many ways. However, sometimes our paradigms become so far removed from reality that they become dysfunctional. A “paradigm shift” occurs when our paradigms change, allowing us to see the world in a new light. Sometimes this happens suddenly, and sometimes very gradually.” (Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) And sometimes never at all… What paradigm shifts have occurred in your life?
The Start of a Paradigm Shift or “Poking Our Head Outside the Fishbowl”
So, is there ever any need to “get out of our own head?” To get out of our own way? To look beyond our own [sometimes] pusillanimous, isolated, narrow, and self-fulfilling paradigms?
After all, if we surround ourselves with… purely ourselves… what happens when all the answers to life’s crud that we have in our own head no longer works? If the water/fishbowl we live in needs another perspective on life, does it make sense to have a “go-to person” [institution or resource] situated in the same fishbowl, and made up of our own blindness and biases, to get another perspective? I think not. A self-perpetuating fishbowl can resemble a cesspool if we’re not wise, a tiny-bit humble, and even moderately circumspect.
But isn’t that mostly what we do? Don’t we tend to be very intentional about NOT pursuing paradigm shifts—at least until our own ideas get tested by the world’s brokenness and trials? Then what?
Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, NYC has wisely and aptly said, “The only people who are objective are the one’s who can admit their subjectivity.”
That’s not a bad start. Are you there yet?
And, as it pertains to the Western Church, from Tullian Tchividjian, Senior Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, “The prevailing view in much of contemporary Christianity is more subjective: It tends to be far more focused on the happiness and moral performance of the Christian than the object of faith, Christ Himself.”
Jesus Christ came from outside and above in order to offer the most important paradigm shift of all—to all who would repent of their Sin and sinning and have faith in Him.
Boom! Once again, the reality of today’s way-worldly church should help us be convinced that this problem of where to go to find True Truth is pervasively immersed in the fishbowl of our own very tiny, self-absorbed minds. But now we’ve touched on something here: triangulation!
“Question. 1. What is the chief end of man? Answer. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.” (Thomas Watson, Puritan Catechism) Only knowing and enjoying God can begin to reduce the inexorable magnetism of our egotism, pretense, and black hole of pride. Can you admit this objective fact as having pricked or more fully penetrated your own subjective heart, mind, soul, and strength?
Jesus Christ came into the world because our own foolish and darkened biases were so far out of whack we needed to be born again (John 3:1-21). There is absolutely, positively, 100%, no-way-Jose solution to our biggest problems that exists inside the fishbowl of our own making, preferences, fears, wounds or wish-fulfillments: The answer must come from outside of us.
This is The Paradigm Shift of all time and eternity.
Have you been born again? Has your heart been touched from the inside first by the Holy Spirit [Who came from the outside] so that you realized you needed help [big-time, temporally and eternally so] from a God-sized, out-sized and external resource to rescue you?
If you or I were drowning in the ocean somewhere—a dead man floundering—what would be the more effective way to be rescued: a) Being lifted out by your own arm and carried to the shore? Or b) being found by a Coast Guard helicopter and lifted to safety? Question: When were you rescued from something really, truly, life-threateningly harmful, by your own self-saving survival skills? Answer: Never.
Swimming in the Fishbowl of Worldview, Cultural Paradigms
Due to “the cultural perfect storm” [rampant secularism, pluralism, and privatization] that we have chewed on many times at the Training Table, the post-modern culture we live in has resulted in the vast majority of people living in a fishbowl of his or her own independent, idol-based, isolated, myopic, largely unchallenged, and “crystallized” point of view. Due to the slow-but-sure devolution of thinking in the past 75+ years, we’re mostly just fine with that problem: The vast majority of folks in our Western civilization don’t bat an eye when he or she is confronted with the “all truth is relative”, “we all have our own truths”, “don’t judge”, etc… nonsensical and unreasonable reasoning. The fishbowl of being wholly unreason-able—unable to apply non-contradictory logic to life—is very real and very problematic today.
Unfortunately, the church falls prey to this cultural dilemma in equal amounts: Individuality is not the cause of so many problems; it’s an effect of a much deeper problem: “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.” (Proverbs 1:2) “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
When the Real Collides with the Unreal… It Can Be Ugly If We’re Not Wise!
But what happens when the unbiased circumstances of this broken world slam into the house of cards of our own “perfect world of prejudices”—and how things ought to be? Where do we tend to go? Is there a possibility that we can see that there’s a place where we should not go: If you want to find out something about the water, or fishbowl, you live in don’t ask a fish of your own bias swimming by!
“The first step in conforming our intellect to God’s truth is to die to our vanity, pride, and craving for respect from colleagues and the public. We must let go of the worldly motivations that drive us, praying to be motivated solely by a genuine desire to submit our minds to God’s Word – and then to use that knowledge in service to others.” (Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity)
We must ALL be born again! “Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God’” (John 3:1-3, emphasis added) In addressing the array of problems related to being stuck in our own fishbowl of self-contentedness and way of life, The Kingdom of God is the furthest and nearest—due to Christ living in us by means of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1)—and the best place to begin and end!
This is the most important “UNLESS” in life, death, and every moment and decision in between, Beloved.
If we truly want to be freed by the Truth and Love of God, we have to begin by admitting and repenting that our own overweening, vain pride is dead-set against God being King—in favor of our own self being king. The irony of our daily attempts to tear God out of His rightful place as King so that we can live our life as we damn-well please… is that in doing so we create a living hell of our own fishbowl existence! In order to live as we please, we’re essentially committing suicide. Due to God’s unfathomable mercy it’s usually a slow, paper-cut-by-paper-cut death: God wants us to finally turn to His Son—The Way, The Truth, and The Life (John 14:6). And His long-suffering
“We see the world, not as it is, but as we are—or, as we are conditioned to see it.” (Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change) We must be born again.
Let’s Cut to the Chase…
Question: When is a fishbowl most like a toilet bowl?
Answer: When ‘living in a fishbowl’ is a metaphor for staying stuck in our own paradigms by means of a willful bent towards being prideful, egotistic, myopic, and pretentious SO LONG that our self-fulfilling logic goes ‘round and ‘round… and begins to really stink.
I know that’s a rough and polarizing analogy, but the dilemma of getting out of our own heads—and “the head’s”, people, ideologies, institutions that we surround ourselves with which simply reinforce our own perspective—is HUGE! I have absolutely no problem facing up to the stinking thinking of my own crappy and incredibly self-centered and murderously hurtful biases.
The problems that flow from our own personal subjectivity creeps into much bigger problems related to the universal state of the world and all institutions which have an array of complicated biases that prevents and protects them and us from being objective in any way.
Can we all admit that we desperately need to think long and hard about how we formulate our ideas, the veracity of our ideas, what blind spots our ideas include and why, whether or not we’re willing to hear opposing ideas, how we reach out and welcome the input of others and their ideas, and/or if we’re willing to betray any “stinking thinking” when we discover our ideas are misguided and adding to the problem… and not solving it?
Are You Living the CON-formed or TRANS-formed Life?
Here’s what God’s word… His objective, inspired, infallible and inerrant, True Truth and Love—the Handbook of God for Humanity—says about facing the bias of our own fishbowl life: “Do not be conformed to the patterns [and paradigms] of this world, but be transformed [born-again] by the renewal of your mind, so that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2, parenthesis, emphasis added).
Please take very seriously this little ditty about avoiding the many pitfalls of subjectivity and how to seek out the objective and absolute True Truth and Love of God as it pertains to any and all issues of YOUR existence. “If you want to find out something about the water, don’t ask the fish.”
Begin; have it in your mind during; and end each day by being immersed in God’s Bible, Beloved. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
If we are even remotely loyal and passionate about being in love with God’s truth in Scripture, every choice we make can be tempered and raised-up by honoring God and blessing people—more and more like The Word, Jesus Christ, did and does by His Spirit in us “Today…” (Psalm 95:7-8).
The Doctrine of the Word